MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Eight years ago, I started down this path of leading the Justice Studies Center of the America’s great team for two consecutive periods. Every member of the team has shown a great deal of commitment towards continuing to expand the work of supporting the transformation of the region’s justice systems and improving access to justice for t h e millions of people who live in the 34 member states of the Organization of American States (OAS).
It has not been easy to reach this goal due to the natural cultural, political, social and economic differences of each country. In addition, we have faced the undeniable impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past few years. However, we have continued to expand our mission to contribute to the democratic development and strengthening of the rule of law to benefit of all citizens, without distinctions.
We firmly believe that countries and their judicial institutions have viewed justice as an intangible good that is more important if placed at the service of individuals and their needs. We trust that our efforts to support them have served to guide their efforts so that they can promote the transformation of their justice system decidedly, with technical rigor and with the cooperation of government entities, always respecting their unique characteristics and opportunities.
Between 2014 and 2021, we focused our work on substantially improving access to civil justice in the region. Our research has allowed us to identify the positive aspects and weaknesses presented by the models of the most advanced countries in this area. Based on those models and their best practices, we have proposed dispute resolution models that reflect our realities. We also have developed training programs for justice system operators characterized by the use of oral procedures and transparency, a collaborative approach to disputes, active case management to improve the use of limited public resources, and adversarial proceedings focused on allowing the parties to present the information that will serve as the basis of the ruling.
In the area of access to civil justice, we examined how the region’s ethnic minorities and most vulnerable groups relate to judicial systems and respond to dispute resolution mechanisms; the structural strengths and weaknesses of the same; and whether swifter, more innovative and accessible mechanisms were being introduced. We analyzed how law students are trained, the skills they acquire, and what it would take to make them drivers of change.
This administration began in 2014, and we continued to promote the justice system transformation policies that had been initiated and led by my predecessors for 15 years. Along with this, we have focused on expanding key changes, mainly in the area of civil justice (or non-criminal justice). These two areas have the greatest impact on the quality of life and development of the people of this region and the democratic coexistence of our communities.
Beginning in 2015, we relaunched key projects like the Training Program for Argentina (in collaboration with INECIP). We also launched new ones, such as the Certificate Program on Oral Criminal Litigation (DLOP) in collaboration with the American University Washington College of Law (AU-WCL) and Universidad Alberto Hurtado de Chile (UAH); and the Project to Support Mexico’s New Criminal Justice System in collaboration with the Technical Secretariat for Implementation (SETEC) using bilateral cooperation funds provided by Chile and Mexico.
Another important achievement from that same year was the creation of the first version of the Central American Certificate Program on Criminal Procedure Reform, which was offered in Guatemala and Costa Rica. This initiative benefited from the support of the Institute for Comparative Studies in the Criminal Sciences (ICCPG), Universidad San Marcos de Guatemala and Universidad de Costa Rica. We also began to execute the Training Program for Criminal Court Judges in Santiago de Chile that year.
Also in 2015, we launched the regional, multi-year project “Improving Access to Civil Justice in Latin America,” which deserves special mention. The Canadian government provided over US$6.5 million for the implementation of this initiative, which benefits from the technical and financial support of Global Affairs Canada (GAC). The project is slated to run through 2022 and is described in greater detail in the body of this report.
With these projects in place, in 2016, JSCA agreed to serve as the General Secretariat of the Latin American Network for Prosecution Service Criminal Analysis Offices. Over the years, this would become the focus of the policies developed by the region’s prosecution agencies. Meanwhile, in the area of civil justice, our institution created the first version of the Inter-American Training Program for Civil Justice Reform, with the understanding that the use of oral procedures, a collaborative approach, and the introduction of adversarial proceedings with greater procedural balance, transparency and innovation in decision-making and the development of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are key for guaranteeing access to justice, especially for the most vulnerable members of society.
JSCA has always focused on substantive improvements to the quality and quantity of the dispute resolution tools available to the public. As such, in 2017 we focused on strengthening judicial administration information and management systems by supporting various pilot projects, training activities, and technical assistance projects for development. This includes the implementation of new judicial offices that are fully integrated with oral hearings and trials, all of which are basic elements of the reform processes unfolding in the region.
That year also has become synonymous with a cross-cutting change at JSCA because we implemented an institutional gender equality policy that became one of the elements that guides all of our work. Today we conceive of justice public policy from a gender perspective that includes a gender equity policy based on intersectionality, the use of inclusive language, and balanced representation, among other elements.
We have undertaken actions to ensure that the gender policy is applied correctly. First, we reviewed its execution within our institution. We then focused on our work supporting governments in this area. We analyzed our courses, projects, faculty, human resources, and research tools and criteria. We started out by offering an intensive training program to our team and then made changes at the institutional level, reaching the conclusion that this approach would guide all of our efforts to promote changes in the judicial systems of the Americas.
The major transformations in civil justice that have been successful around the world began by identifying people’s problems in the area of justice. Then, they
used that information to design access mechanisms and various dispute resolution models -judicial, non-judicial, integrated- that are appropriate for the type of problem and individuals involved in each case.
Aware of the need to have quality information for the proper design of public policies for transforming civil justice systems, our organization led the creation, development and implementation of the region’s first Observatory on Civil Conflict and Access to Justice (OCCA). The OCCA has become a key mechanism for identifying and monitoring the most important civil disputes for our communities and the barriers that people face when resolving them, with a special focus on at-risk groups in Latin America.
The OCCA is currently comprised of renowned institutions from seven countries: Argentina’s Civil Association for Equality and Justice (ACIJ); the Pontificia Universidad Católica de São Paulo Research Group on Fundamental Rights (PUC-SP, Brazil); the Universidad Alberto Hurtado (UAH) Law School Program on Dispute Management and Resolution in Chile; the Commercial and Border Law Research Group at Colombia’s Universidad Francisco de Paula Santander (GIJCF-UFPS); the Foundation for Research for the Application of Law (FESPAD, El Salvador); the University Human Rights Program’s Legal Clinic at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (PDUH-UNAM); and the Center for Judicial Studies (CEJ) of Paraguay.
In 2018, we launched the Training Program on Investigation and Litigation in Argentina’s New Federal Adversarial Criminal Justice System. This initiative was funded by INL, the United States Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. It was originally designed for the Salta and Jujuy Provinces, but was extended to Santa Fe, Mendoza, Salta, La Rioja, Córdoba, Buenos Aires and other provinces in 2020.
We also started the initiative Technical Cooperation with the Peruvian Judiciary to promote an oral and adversarial civil justice model starting with a pilot program in the Arequipa district, which was a major change for that country’s justice sector. We designed the Brazilian Training Program for Criminal Justice Reform, as Brazil is the only country on the continent that continues to use an inquisitorial criminal justice system model.
We have thus understood that reforms in this area must focus on guaranteeing material and not only formal access to all people without distinction and on delivering a comprehensive solution to conflicts. In other words, it must cover the entire problem presented, such as the primary conflict and the underlying dispute, so that it can contribute to social peace. This is of great importance, because we understand that while civil disputes emerge between private entities, they have consequences in and for the entire community.
As such, the most advanced transformations of civil justice give judges the authority to manage cases. This allows them to guide and even determine the dispute resolution mechanism and most appropriate procedures to be used. They can avoid delay tactics employed by attorneys; set aside clearly irrelevant, excessive and inexpedient evidence; and allow the parties to reach agreements at any time, proposing the best solutions based on the specific problem at hand.
After promoting these changes in theory and practice that increase access to justice for everyone in the region, we continued to make progress on the transformation of judicial systems and acceptance of new dispute resolution mechanisms and channels of access.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the enormous gaps that continue to exist in this field. Furthermore, the efforts made to quickly normalize the region’s judicial services laid bare a lack of integration of channels for access to justice and collaborative mechanisms in the strategic concept and framework of justice systems. The decision to hold hearings and trials using electronic platforms also revealed the formidable obstacle of the region’s digital gap. The tension between procedural guarantees and the limitations of the commercial platforms used for these purposes inspired a broad discussion in the region.
In turn, as part of an unprecedented institutional effort, we managed to successfully manage the difficulties that the pandemic has generated in the areas of mobility, health and the operation of the entire regional justice system. In spite of the restrictions, JSCA’s team managed to adjust the new global reality, developing research, training courses and dissemination and communications activities under the best conditions for everyone involved, using technology and new forms of communication. Drawing on our staff’s high levels of creativity, willingness to work and organization, we have continued to support the major and minor changes that our judicial systems need, contributing critical analysis and a proactive approach to the new interaction between justice and technology.
As such, the COVID-19 pandemic also opened up the opportunity to rethink policies, designs and practices focused on access, services and dispute resolution in all areas of law. We believe that it is urgent to begin to design procedures meant to be deployed using electronic platforms (especially Online Dispute Resolution, ODR). There is also an urgent need for electronic platforms for hearings and trials based on procedural guarantees.
As such, it is necessary to have technology at the service of justice, and not the inverse. We must use technology to provide inclusive access to justice (which requires reducing the digital gap) and for dispute resolution that is prompt, adequate, efficient, effective, lasting, transparent and contributes to social peace. Based on those substantive and strategic objectives, we can arrive at the right combination and integration of electronic and in-person channels for access to justice; collaborative in-person or virtual dispute resolution; the use of Online Dispute Resolution, including both synchronous and asynchronous systems; digital processing, management, monitoring and evaluation of cases; the use of in-person, virtual or hybrid litigation; electronic sentence enforcement platforms; and the regulation and audited use of AI to support various aspects of justice.
In this Global Management Report, we describe both the progress that we have made over the years and the challenges related to transforming the continent’s justice systems in an effort to contribute to democracy, social peace and wellbeing for all people.
On this path that we have traveled, we wish to recognize the enormous amount of support provided by many national and international officials, public and private institutions, and individuals who have displayed a great deal of leadership and generosity, as exemplified by Dr. Alberto Binder, who have been with us from the start. We extend a collective thank you to our JSCA Alumni Network, which is comprised of people who are fully committed to transforming justice in the region. We are especially grateful for the guidance, trust and decided support offered by our Board of Directors and each and every one of its past and present members. I also wish to personally remember the former President of the JSCA Board of Directors and Canadian judge Marc Rosenberg (1950-2015), who left us very early and marked our lives.
I would also like to thank to the professionals from so many fields who have trusted JSCA to train them. Their diversity reminds us that justice operates in a context that requires that it be inclusive, flexible, innovative, open and accessible. Their commitment multiplied the impact of JSCA’s training programs and technical assistance through the replicas that they designed and led so that we could reach thousands by training hundreds. Thank you so very much.
Finally, I have only words of gratitude for our staff. Every one of them is characterized by their knowledge, discipline, perseverance, teamwork and creativity. I have had the privilege of working with the highest level professionals, as evidenced by the leadership of the various areas of JSCA. Since 2014, our teams have been led by Marco Fandiño and Leonel González and by the fabulous Executive Secretariat of the Board, coordinators, researchers and consultants who have served in various capacities as the executive directorship of JSCA from 2014 to 2021. You are and have been the essence of the work that we have done during this period that is coming to a close.
My goal has been to promote the transformation of justice in the Americas from the wealth of diverse ideas, discussions and models centered on people and their needs in the context of changing communities and a modern democratic rule of law.
I believe that the inclusive identity that has characterized the work of the team that I lead has allowed JSCA to understand and interpret the challenges of our times -even in difficult times- in the best possible way so that we could successfully design and collaborate on pivotal changes for justice in the Americas.
Thank you to those who encouraged me to return to public service. And thank you to everyone who has supported me in various ways at the service of this beautiful and diverse region. See you soon.